Assessing the human impacts on coral reefs: Coral reefs are popular recreational diving and snorkeling destinations. We are determining the impacts of these visits on reef habitat, particularly after the 2-day lobster sport season, when thousands of divers converge on reefs in south Florida.

Coral Reef Research

Human impacts on coral reefs in south Florida

  • Aerial photograph of numerous boats during “Lobster Mini-season 2009”
  • Boat using a mooring buoy offshore of Broward County in southeast Florida
  • UF researcher completing a damage assessment survey on a coral reef in southeast Florida
  • GIS figures showing the vessel use patterns in Miami-Dade County. Click link on left for full report
In southeast Florida, colleagues and I are using aerial surveys to determine human use patterns (i.e. vessels) on coral reefs and in-water studies to determine whether the use patterns we describe correspond to reef damage patterns. We use helicopter surveys with laser rangefinder integrated GPS technology to identify vessel positions, vessel characteristics, and vessel activities. These data are then incorporated into a GIS framework with existing benthic habitat maps to spatially analyze patterns of use. Following these vessel use studies we began to focus on whether the patterns of use (e.g., anchoring) correspond with reef damage and if management such as mooring buoy installation can change the patterns and damage. Florida resource managers (e.g., FDEP and FWC) can use the outcomes of these studies in their management plan for coral reefs in southeast Florida.


  • Determining Vessel Use Patterns in the Southeast Florida Region
    Link to Report
  • Determining Coral Reef Impacts Associated with Boat Anchoring and User Activity in Southeast Florida
    Link to Report

Funding Agencies